Down in the Music City, it sure ain't sunny, so we'll roll with punny. When we checked our calendar this morning, while pouring an appropriately large cup of ambition, we couldn't help but notice that it is, in fact, 9/25 (read: 9-2-5). That means it's time for a salute to one of the most skilled singer-songwriters to walk our planet: Dolly Rebecca Parton. She's also one of the most successful, and it honestly couldn't happen to a nicer lady — besides having the brains, the looks and the luck, Ms. Parton also has a keen interest in philanthropy, championing one of my favorite causes, literacy (for more on the Imagination Library, take a peek at Susannah Felts' 2010 interview).
As if that weren't enough, she owns a popular theme park complex and her signature curves have adorned a pinball machine — all the more reason to love us some Dolly. Music editor D. Patrick Rodgers did a swell roundup of the media blitz when Parton's memoir came out last fall, and Michael McCall did a great in-depth review of her 2009 career-retrospective box set.
Her latest project is a duet with Kenny Rogers on the title cut from his forthcoming record, You Can't Make Old Friends, reprising their roles on the 1983 Beegees-penned hit "Islands in the Stream." Take a look at that, and a few other choice cuts tracing Parton's rise to power, after the jump.
One of 12 kids, raised in extreme poverty, Parton showed an early interest in music. By the tender age of 14, she cut her second single, "It's Sure Gonna Hurt," which flopped and cancelled her first contract. Like everyone in the history of achieving things, Parton didn't let that stop her from trying again; her own recordings were slow to catch on, though other singers charted with her songs. Finally, "Something Fishy" and "Dumb Blonde" (written by Curly Putman) broke into the charts, helping cement her identity as a singer and grabbing Porter Wagoner's attention in the process. Here she is on his TV show for the first time, 46 years ago yesterday:
The two became a powerhouse team through the early '70s, with Wagoner gallantly helping make room for Parton in a crowded marketplace where solo female performers weren't always met with the warmest reception. Here she is again on the Porter Wagoner show with her first No. 1 single, "Jolene":
And, in case you didn't catch the recent Interweb wave, this is not Gillian Welch sippin' on sizzurp, but the 45 of "Jolene" played at 33 RPM:
Like all good things, the Parton-Wagoner partnership came to an end. Comedy Central's Drunk History recently recapped the incident for us, but here's the original R&B-flavored cut, cutting deep like "Dark End of the Street":
Her instincts, as usual, were proven right, as she turned out pop and country hits left and right, including the theme to the movie that inspired this post and kicked off her acting career. There have even been a few notable Christmas tunes, including "Coat of Many Colors" (check out her fingerstyle guitar playing, enhanced by naturally-grown picks) and "Hard Candy Christmas":
Maybe everything she's tried doesn't strike our fancy (although even this disco tune ain't too shabby), but all told, she's had a long and amazing run that doesn't look to end any time soon.